Yael T. Abouhalkah

Kansas GOP conservatives lamely cling to power and protect Brownback

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said Wednesday that fellow Republicans would fix the state’s budget mess. Don’t believe her.
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said Wednesday that fellow Republicans would fix the state’s budget mess. Don’t believe her. The Associated Press

In a desperate bid to hang on to political power, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says she and fellow Republicans will solve the state’s budget woes.

Don’t believe her for one moment.

Wagle didn’t even have the courage at a special press conference Wednesday to rip into the person most responsible for ruining the Kansas budget: Gov. Sam Brownback.

Wagle, with other mostly conservative Republican candidates nearby, said the huge shortfall of $60 million in public revenues was a real problem that she would love to tackle in the 2017 session.

Oh, really?

Brownback, Wagle and all the other ultra-conservative Republicans created this shortfall by voting for the costly 2012 income tax cuts that have sliced $650 million a year out of a nearly $6 billion general fund budget.

Rather than concede that fact, Wagle spent part of her time engaged in a silly attack on Democrats.

“The Democrats don’t have a plan,” she said. “They haven’t put forward budgets, they haven’t put forward tax plans.”

First, the Democrats don’t occupy the office of governor, which is where the budget is supposed to come from.

Second, some Democrats have offered plans to re-institute income taxes on the owners of 330,000 LLCs, which could bring in roughly $250 million a year.

But Brownback and the majority of Republicans have resisted passing such a bill.

Wagle’s appearance Wednesday was all show and no substance.

As Wagle knows well, most conservative GOP candidates spent the August primaries defending the Brownback tax cuts or, at the very least, claiming things were going well in the Sunflower State. They prattled on about supposed job creation in Kansas and transforming a supposedly inefficient government.

Yet voters in Johnson County and elsewhere defeated many of these conservatives in favor of more moderate Republican candidates.

In reality, look at who doesn’t have a “plan.”

It’s Wagle and the Senate Republicans. They want to restore a rainy day fund that could deal with budget shortfalls. Guess what? The state used to have hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves — until the tax cuts came along and the state had to use all those reserves just to try to balance the budget the last few years.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka was correct when he noted that Wagle and others with her “remain Brownback allies.”

He added: “We need to move beyond Brownback and we need a change in the Senate to bring more moderate people together so we can form a bipartisan coalition that we’ve had in the past.”

Hensley is right, and voters get that chance this fall when they can get rid of Wagle and other conservative GOP lawmakers by sending more moderate Republicans and Democrats to Topeka.